Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton resigns from New Mexico House of Representatives

Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D) resigned on July 30 following allegations of racketeering and money laundering. In July 2021, a federal grand jury subpoena was served on the Albuquerque Public Schools district where Stapleton was working as the district’s director of career and technical education.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the investigation was triggered by a mislabeled invoice and persistent inquiries from the Albuquerque Public Schools business office questioning Stapleton’s relationship with contractor Robotics Management Learning System LLC. Documents say the contractor was paid more than $5 million since 2006 and that more than $950,000 of that was funneled to the two businesses and two nonprofits with ties to Stapleton.

In her resignation letter, Stapleton denied the allegations. She said, “In short, because I must devote a significant amount of time and energy to fully defend against these allegations, I believe it is in the best interest of this state and the House of Representatives that my position as both a member of the House of Representatives and Majority Floor Leader be replaced with a representative who can fully and competently resume the tasks and duties that are necessary to continue serving this great state.”

Stapleton was first elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives to represent District 19 in 1994. 

As of August 2021, there have been 78 vacancies in 35 state legislatures. Fifty of those vacancies have been filled. Stapleton’s resignation is New Mexico’s second state legislative vacancy this year; the first was Melanie Ann Stansbury (D), who left the state House when she won the special election to represent New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District.

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Redistricting review: Colorado Supreme Court adjusts redistricting deadlines

The Colorado Supreme Court modified its schedule for reviewing congressional and state legislative redistricting plans on July 26. This prompted the state’s congressional redistricting commission to adjust its own deadlines for submitting a final plan to the court for review.

The court’s July 26 order requires the congressional commission and all other interested parties to submit briefs “seven days after [the commission] … submits a final [congressional] plan and relevant accompanying materials to the supreme court for review, but in any event no later than Oct. 8.” The court will issue a ruling on the plan by Nov. 1. On Aug. 2, the congressional commission voted to adjust its own deadlines accordingly. It will approve a final plan by Sept. 28 and submit that plan to the court by Oct. 1. The commission’s original deadline for adopting a final congressional plan was Sept. 1.

The congressional redistricting commission originally petitioned the court to extend the deadline for submitting a final plan to Oct. 28. In response to the court’s July 26 order, Commissioner Bill Leone said, “We asked for a schedule, and they gave us a slightly different schedule — it’s not as much as we asked for, but it’s more than we have.”

For the state legislative district plan, the court set Oct. 22 as the briefing deadline. The court will issue a ruling on the plan by Nov. 15. The state legislative redistricting commission has not yet determined whether it will extend its original Sept. 15 deadline for submitting a final plan to the court for review.

To date:

  • Two states have enacted state legislative district plans: Illinois and Oklahoma.
  • In one additional state (Colorado), redistricting authorities have released drafts of proposed congressional and state legislative district plans.

Douglas Peters resigns from Maryland Senate on July 30

Maryland Sen. Douglas Peters (D) resigned from his position in the Maryland Senate on July 30. Peters, who represented District 23, first assumed office in 2007, and was subsequently re-elected three times. 

Peters had announced his resignation at the beginning of July, following his appointment to the University of Maryland’s Board of Regents by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R). In a statement, Peters called it “an honor of a lifetime to serve my neighbors at the city, county, and state level,” and that he looked forward “to serving on the University System of Maryland Board of Regents.”

Peters’ departure from the state Senate leaves a vacancy in his district that will be filled by appointment. The appointee will serve until the district is up for election at next year’s midterms. The state Senate’s partisan composition is 31 Democrats, 15 Republicans, and one vacancy. While both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly are under Democratic control, the governor of Maryland is Republican, preventing a Democratic trifecta.

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Lawsuit filed over Newsom recall voter guide language

On July 29, 2021, recall organizer Orrin Heatlie and the California Patriot Coalition sued California Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) in Sacramento County Superior Court seeking to change the language in the official voter guide for the recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).

Newsom’s proposed official argument in the voter guide describes the recall as “an attempt by national Republicans and Trump supporters to force an election and grab power in California.” The plaintiffs allege this language, which was provided by Newsom, “mirror(s) his and his supporters’ paid advertisements” and amount to paid advertisement.

Newsom’s proposed language refers to himself as “Democratic governor,” which the plaintiffs are also challenging. On July 12, 2021, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge James P. Arguelles ruled that Newsom would not have his party affiliation on the recall ballot because Newsom did not file a party preference form in response to the recall petition.

Nathan Click, a spokesperson for Newsom’s campaign, called the lawsuit baseless. “The facts are clear — this is a partisan Republican recall: one that was launched by Republicans like Heatlie and Netter and funded almost exclusively by Republican donors, the RNC and allies of Donald Trump,” he said.

A hearing in the case will take place on August 4. The deadline for public review and legal challenges related to the voter guide is August 6. The voter guide will be mailed to voters by August 24.

The recall election will present voters with two questions. The first will ask whether Newsom should be recalled from the office of governor. The second will ask who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. A majority vote is required on the first question for the governor to be recalled. The candidate with the most votes on the second question would win the election, no majority required.

Forty-six candidates, including nine Democrats and 24 Republicans, are running in the election. The candidates to receive the most media attention and perform best in polls so far are YouTuber Kevin Paffrath (D), 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox (R), radio host Larry Elder (R), former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R), former Olympian and television personality Caitlyn Jenner (R), Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R), and former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose (R).

Alabama House of Representatives District 63 special election set for Feb. 1, 2022

Election officials have scheduled a special election for the District 63 seat in the Alabama House of Representatives for Feb. 1, 2022. The seat became vacant after Bill Poole (R) resigned on July 31 after Gov. Kay Ivey (R) appointed him the director of the Alabama Department of Finance. The primary is on Oct. 19, the primary runoff if no candidate receives a majority of the primary vote is on Nov. 16, and the filing deadline is on Aug. 17.

A closer look at major-party expenditures in the Virginia gubernatorial election

In the race for Governor of Virginia, investment executive Glenn Youngkin (R) has outspent former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) according to the most recent campaign finance reports covering spending through June 30, 2021. Youngkin, who launched his campaign three months after McAuliffe, has spent $16.9 million dollars to McAuliffe’s $11.3 million.

McAuliffe recorded his first expenditure on Sept. 6, 2020. Youngkin recorded his first on Jan. 14, 2021, and passed McAuliffe’s total expenditures on Feb. 8, 2021. Since then, Youngkin has exceeded McAuliffe in total expenditures throughout the campaign.

The chart below shows the progression of campaign expenditures since Jan. 1, 2021. McAuliffe’s largest single-day expenditure was $995,982 on April 29 and Youngkin’s largest was $1.2 million on June 18. For both campaigns, these expenditures primarily consisted of media buys, where campaigns spend money to reserve digital, television, and radio ad space.

Producing and placing media ads make up the majority of both campaigns’ total expenditures.

Roughly 41% of all of McAuliffe’s expenditures have gone to a single vendor: Grassroots Media LLC, which offers strategic media planning services and carries out media buys. Similarly, 42% of all of Youngkin’s expenditures have gone to Smart Media Group LLC, an advertising agency and media buy company.

Princess Blanding, the Liberation Party candidate, will also appear on the general election ballot. She spent $11,043 as of June 30 and has $7,739 on hand according to the most recent campaign finance reports. Her expenditures primarily have been for campaign supplies and canvassing costs, with her largest expenditure—$1,193 on March 4, 2021—going towards yard signs.

Virginians will elect their new governor on Nov. 2, 2021. Democrats have won four of the five most recent gubernatorial elections and all thirteen statewide elections in Virginia since 2012. In 2019, Democrats won majorities in both the state House and Senate, creating a Democratic trifecta in Virginia for the first time since 1994.

July 2021 breakdown of state legislative party membership: 54.30% Republicans, 44.79% Democrats

54.30% of all state legislators are Republicans, and 44.79% are Democrats, according to Ballotpedia’s July partisan count of the 7,383 state legislators.

Ballotpedia tallies the partisan balance of state legislatures at the end of every month. This refers to which political party holds the majority of seats in each chamber. Republicans control 61 chambers, while Democrats hold 37. The Alaska House of Representatives is the only chamber to be organized under a multipartisan, power-sharing coalition.

Nationally, the state legislatures include 1,957 state senators and 5,363 state representatives. Democrats hold 867 state Senate seats—the same as the last two months—and 2,443 state House seats, a loss of three seats since the end of June. Republicans hold 4,010 of the 7,383 total state legislative seats—1,090 state Senate seats (down two since June) and 2,920 state House seats (an increase of one).

Independent or third-party legislators hold 39 seats, of which 32 are state House seats, and seven are state Senate seats. There are 24 vacant seats.

During the month of July, Democrats saw a net decrease of three seats, and Republicans saw a net decrease of one seat. Compared to July of last year, the state legislatures are 2.01% less Democratic (46.80% to 44.79%) and 2.29% more Republican (52.01% to 54.30%).  

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Alabama state Rep. Bill Poole resigns to become state finance director

Bill Poole (R) resigned from the Alabama House of Representatives on July 31 to accept a position as the director of the Alabama Department of Finance. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) appointed him to the position on July 16, effective Aug. 1, to replace Kelly Butler. Poole represented District 63 from 2010 to 2021. Poole was first elected to the state House on Nov. 2, 2010, and was most recently re-elected in 2018, winning 96.1% of the vote.

Vacancies in the Alabama legislature are filed by special election. If a vacancy occurs on or after Oct. 1 in the year of a regular election, the district will remain vacant until filled at the regular election. Otherwise, the governor must call for a special election if the vacancy happens before the next scheduled general election and the legislature is in session. 

As of Aug. 2, there have been 72 state legislative vacancies in 35 states this year. Fifty of those vacancies have been filled. Of the 72 vacancies, 38 were Republican and 34 were Democratic. Republicans have filled 27 vacancies, while Democrats have filled 23.

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